Funky

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Argh.. the all too familiar grit of my teeth grinding in frustration.  The afternoon had concluded with joy stealing challenge, a tax related bump and an email from a numbskull salesman (who almost always rubs me wrong) threatened to fill my psyche with bitter poison.  Thankfully, my mountain bike waited for me along with my car in the parking lot, a short drive to the trails on a picture perfect evening promising to eliminate my woes.  All the way there, the events of the afternoon worked on me.  I parked my car at the trailhead, aware of the frown decorating my face.

Hey guys, turn your heads for a minute.  I don’t want to expose myself while I change into my shorts.

The kids who had parked next to me laughed and promised not to be offended.  Quickly, I stepped out of my shorts and slipped on the padded undershorts, pulled the ‘stylish’ mountain bike shorts over them.

I could already feel the angst beginning to melt away.

Adding to the ambience, the familiar rust color of my friend Jeremy’s Honda Element rolled past as I unlocked my bike and pulled it off of my hitch rack.  Even better, Jeremy parked nearby and his wonderful wife, Monica, emerged from the vehicle and headed in my direction, a warm smile for me as she pulled me in for a hug.  Jeremy is great, even better when Monica is with him.  She treats me like I am someone special, always treats me that way, treats her husband even more so, something that has endeared them both to me.  In a season of my life where I don’t seem to see enough relationships like that, I soak up the happy spirit I get from the both of them together whenever they are around.

I joined Jeremy for a fast ride, shortened when we went back to the parking lot after four miles to lube my chain, only to be waylaid by Monica and their friend, Carrie, with the temptation of beer.  Beer won over riding, the evening weather so perfect that anything was OK.

And it was just what I needed.  It was obvious to me as I drove home.  I had gone from teeth gritting to singing loudly to whatever song was on the radio.

I saw Miriam in the grocery store when I stopped to pick up some chicken to cook for dinner.  It didn’t matter.  Nothing was going to return me to the funk.

Bikes.  Friends.  Just what the doctor ordered.

What’s For Dinner?

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Ever had that disjointed feeling, a gnawing nag where something just isn’t quite in place, a constant reminder to be patient because all will be back to normal soon?

I should have kept that question a little more simple and shorter.  Screw it.  It covers more bases the way it is written.

How about that feeling that someone is always watching you?  It’s real if you have ever had pets and/or children.

I have a hawk.20170415_172104

Pretty freaking cool, eh?  Good thing that I don’t have pets or small children right now.  That hawk is big enough to carry off a small terrier.  Since I moved into my condo at the end of March, I have seen the hawk several times in the big trees in front of my deck, even witnessed it swoop by before soaring to its perch close by.  But this time mister hawk decided to pay me a personal visit, close up.  I was sitting outside on the deck, already one of my favorite places, and suddenly I was face to face with this daunting beauty.  He sat on the railing in front of me for a good two minutes, curious as I talked to him.  I am certain that he totally expected me to understand what he was saying to me.

Listen, buddy, welcome to the neighborhood.  Understand a few things and we will get along.

There likely are a few hawk rules that I will need to abide by.

Once I get settled in, I will read the little rule book that he dropped off.

As of Friday, I am once again a homeowner.  That’s right, I successfully negotiated the mortgage maze.  There really wasn’t much to negotiate since the only debt I have is a car payment.  Plus, my portion of the equity from the sale of the house was waiting to finance the new mortgage.  Even with that, I spent the past few weeks in a temporary limbo,  sure yet unsure that I would be living in my condo.  When my house sold, I moved into the second bedroom of the condo while waiting for my mortgage to be approved, as well as waiting for my temporary roommate’s mortgage to be approved.

I should say that I am squeezed into the second bedroom.  I had to be creative in order to make two beds, two dressers, a large screen TV, a head board, fit into one bedroom.  One might say that I am the prince and the pea right now, my mattress stacked on top of a bed frame, box spring, and the mattress from the other bed.  Thankfully, my other box spring is a split, two piece design, so it is stacked easily in a corner of the room.

Up to now the place hasn’t quite felt like my home.  It felt temporary, like it wasn’t real.  My roomie has been diligently packing her things, boxes all over the place, my things slowly replacing her the items that she packs away.

And then I got writer’s cramp.  That happens when you sign all the closing documents.

I bought a gas grill yesterday, assembled it in it’s stainless steel glory out on MY deck.  All of a sudden, I feel the solid sureness return.  I am home, my peaceful place.  Mine.

Ahhhhhhhhh!

One Week Out

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My friends who have gone through separation and divorce all have tried to describe to me what the experience was going to be like.  Each really was different, each had their own spin, their relationship with their ex unique.  I am grateful to have friends who are able to share with me, friends who actually follow up to make sure that I am OK and doing all right.  After a week, the reality is starting to sink in, the challenges starting to show themselves.  For that matter, so are the gains.

I like living on my own.  I like the sudden solitude, softened by the fact that an old friend still lives in the condo that I am buying from her.  We should close on the condo soon, as soon as my mortgage goes through, and she should be closing on the house she bought by May 5th.  That’s almost unbelievable and I often feel like this whole thing is just a strange dream.  It’s not.  It’s real.

One realization struck me yesterday morning — I sleep completely through the night now.  No longer do I have two night owls disturbing my sleep.  Nate takes midnight showers, complete with music to accompany the shower.  No longer do I have to experience that.

I do miss my son.  However, I think the time away from each other has already been good for the both of us.  We communicate now and with a purpose.  He treats me with more respect, maybe because he knows that his time with me will be short.  This week we searched for cars together, his windfall from the separation and his high school graduation present.  Last night we settled on a very practical car for him, a 2009 Ford Focus SEL station wagon, sold to us by the father of one of his friends at wholesale price.  The guy is selling it to us at a very, very good price and is making sure it is in prime shape, going as far as to deliver it to Nate this Monday evening.

Nate also high fived me after he and his doubles partner, Joe, won their third match at a tennis tournament this morning.  They are 5-0 so far in the early part of the high school tennis season.  He and Joe were even interviewed by the local newspaper after their first meet last Tuesday.  The high five might not mean much to some, but it’s something for me.  Nate rarely acknowledges me after he plays.

Miriam and Nate are living with her sister.  She decided not to buy her condo, will instead be renting.  I don’t know how to feel about that.  Rent is a great deal more than buying around here.

I gave the divorce petition to Miriam on Tuesday night.  That was one of those moments where I just did what needed to be done.  It wasn’t pleasant.  Talk about real.  It was very real.  She tossed the envelope back at me, said she wouldn’t sign it unless I gave her $5000 for a lawyer.  Even though she knew it was coming, knew that money is going to be tight for her, it obviously was a shock.  I feel pity for her, but it’s mixed with a strong I-told-you-so.  A lot of what is happening to her, she helped create, even if you only consider the relational side.  She also created debt for herself that needs to be resolved, contrary to advice that I gave to her when I found out that she was maxing out a credit card that she had taken in her own name.

I am writing this blog outside, on the deck of the condo that will soon enough be mine, a very pleasant place, a blessing.  Much more will be shared from this place.

 

April Fool?

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The thought just struck me, a miniature epiphany brought on when I realized that today is usually one of my favorite days of the year.  It’s April Fool’s day, after all, and coincidentally my first full day of “freedom”.  From now on, the meaning of April 1 will no longer be associated with a prank, unless this whole thing happening in my life really is some cruel and massive joke.  Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and discover that it really has been that.

One problem — I will wake up tomorrow in my own bed, but that bed is not in my house.  It’s in someone else’s house, a house that will be mine in a few weeks, nonetheless it’s not the room I have known for some 23 years.  What a strange, almost other worldly feeling this is.

Yesterday, after 23 years, I said good bye to my cozy little two story house.  The past few days, weeks really, have been a whirlwind of seemingly constant work getting the house ready for someone else to live in, fretting over their requests to have this or that fixed/remedied/improved.  Wednesday night, while I was beginning the last stages of packing my things for the move, I received a text from my lawyer, relaying a request from the buyers to verify that the breaker box had been relabeled and a dedicated circuit had been added for the microwave range.  I wasn’t happy, not quite steaming mad, but upset enough that I could taste the sour mood the text had helped create.  I chewed on it, almost decided to tell the buyers to suck pond water, then realized that it really was an easy thing to dispute.  I sent the list for the breaker box that had been created when an electrician inspected the box, pointing out that breaker two was dedicated to the microwave range and stove.  Done.  Finished.  Resolved.

I rented a UHaul truck Thursday evening, greeted my friends Jeremy and Steve as they arrived to help with the move, started in on getting the furniture out of the house.  My dad and youngest brother arrived after a while, dug in and helped.  Never have I been so encouraged to have good friends, thankful more than I could express for their kindness.  It wasn’t just the work they offered, it was their support and understanding, empathy as we worked.  Over the years, I have helped countless people move, never once thinking of what that service meant to those receiving it.  Now I know.  Had they not been there, not only would the huge task been next to impossible to finish, I think the weight of the day may have been enormous to bear.  Instead, while I carried a lot of physical weight that night, the burden was a whole lot lighter.

Miriam left the house shortly after my friends arrived and before my dad arrived.  I am pretty sure that she didn’t want to face him.  If there was any doubt, she called me later on in the evening and asked me to tell her when everyone was gone, then texted me an hour later to confirm.  Sad.  I wished she would have wanted to try to reconcile.  I realize that it was an emotional time any way, but it may have been a good time to try.  Instead, she stayed away, giving up four hours that she should have been using to pack and clean, something she also was woefully behind on.  I stayed up until one in the morning, as much I could take, helped Miriam and her sister as they packed her stuff.  Cleaned as rooms were vacated.

I slept on an air mattress in the near empty house Thursday night.  Miriam worked until four in the morning, then went and slept at her sister’s house.   I didn’t see Nate.  He went to the Bulls game with friends, went straight to his aunt’s house.  I haven’t seen him since Wednesday night, have only talked to him for a few seconds on the phone since then.  That too is sad.  He called while the soon to be owners of our house were doing their final walk through of our house at 2 PM Friday, asked if he could come over and say goodbye to the house.. but Miriam had to tell him that it was too late.

We worked feverishly Friday morning getting everything out of the house, cleaning, throwing out the garbage.  I had put our old couch, overstuffed chair, and ottoman out at the curb for the garbage men to pick up next week.  Of course, when I was out to get garbage pickup stickers to put on the furniture for pickup, as well as the ten bags of garbage also out at the curb, a city code officer stopped by and left a warning ticket about the stuff being out at the curb.  If the garbage and furniture didn’t have stickers and wasn’t picked up by Monday, a $75 ticket would be issued!  I called the city, explained that we were moving and that stickers had been purchased ($75 worth, ironically).  They were kind, told me that everything was OK.

We were finishing the packing as the buyers pulled up for their walk through inspection.  Their realtor asked us if we were finished.  I said that we had everything out and the house was ready.  As Miriam drove off and her sister and I finished putting the last few things in her car, the buyers walked into the house with their realtor.

I paused in the driveway, stood next to my car, willed myself to take one last look at my house.  MY house.  MY FREAKING HOUSE.  I turned looked at my house, unprepared for the emotion that slammed me in the face.

This was no longer my house.  Someone else would be making new memories there.  I hoped there were still some left.  This was the place where my children were born and raised.  Heck, it was where they were made.  A lot of me was in that little structure.  With all the change, it felt like I was leaving a lot of me there.  I stood there, unable to move, no longer able to fight the tears that began streaming down in my face, sobbing as my sister in law came over and held me in a tight hug, told me that it would be all right, that I would always be welcome in her home and that she still loved me like a brother.

For weeks, I let the tasks keep me from realizing the full impact of what was about to happen.  In one quick instance, with one quick glance at the house that represented so much of what my life had been, my life changed.

Now I live somewhere else.  With someone that I knew very well some 26 years ago.  She already has proved that our friendship has been remembered, a great comfort to me these past 24 hours.  We shared coffee and breakfast this morning, talked a lot, went about the tasks of the day, then enjoyed a quiet time together out on the deck of what will be my condo soon.  It’s peaceful, serene, with woods behind, birds and animals surrounding.  At one point while we were out there, a large hawk flew over us and perched on the railing of the deck of the condo next door.  I am relaxed, my old friend and the friends I have spent time with the past few nights a true gift from God.  I feel blessed.  I feel like God is telling me that he is OK with me, that I can move on.

And I have moved.  Happy April Fool’s day, a day that no longer will be associated with fools any more, at least to me.  I am free.

Ready

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Spring is here.  The days are getting longer, trees are showing their buds, crocuses are popping up.

Most important, preseason baseball is in full swing.  Literally.

This is my favorite time of the year and I can’t wait for the season to start.  Adding to the anticipation is the excellent showing of the USA in the World Baseball Classic, one of the best tournaments I have witnessed to date.  So excited am I about the new season that the Cardinal wear is already out of the closet.20170322_081334

If my Cub fan friends see that last sentence, there will be sarcasm in the air.

Dumpster Diving

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No, that’s not a picture of my new luxury condo.  I did check it several times to make sure no families had moved in, just in case.

That sucker was as big as a large RV.  Several neighbors and family members quipped that ther was no possible way that I could fill a dumpster that large.  They scoffed at me for my foolish spending, saying that I could have spent far less for a smaller container, more appropriate to my needs.  Perhaps the sparse accumulation of snow that fell the day the dumpster was delivered was an indication of the corresponding accumulation of junk over the years we have occupied our property.  23 years of accumulation, in a house occupied by my hoarding missionary’s daughter of a spouse — she throws away nothing, including empty boxes just in case something needs to be returned to the store.  In her defense, much of what she had growing up came out of donation boxes, outdated and patched.  She is accustomed to recycling and reusing, so it is difficult for her family to throw anything away, if simply because some day someone else might have a use for it.

The container was delivered on Monday afternoon.  I started tossing and tossing and tossing the next day.  By Wednesday evening, I had finished eliminating the junk from the backyard shed and the floor level of the garage.  That meant there was only one area left — the rafters of the garage.  I dreaded that task.  Not only was it dirty and dusty, but it was crammed with heavy boxes of books, old baby furniture, as well as a complete dirty remnant of carpet that had been stored there for the whole 23 years we occupied the house.

My wife finally decided to help me with that job, about halfway through the rafters.  I welcomed the assistance, tired of carting stuff down the ladder.  Thursday night, the task was finished, a few odds and ends tossed over the side of the full container.

That’s right.  FULL.  To the brim.  Full of junk.  Full of quite a few memories.  All delivered to the landfill.

March 31 comes next, the day we say good bye to the house.

I Have A Crush On A 29+

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That’s right.  You read it correctly.  I have a serious crush on a 29+.

Don’t be hating me.  After all, a crush is harmless, hurts no one unless it turns into obsession.  It could.

Her boyfriend let me ride her yesterday, a cushy, plush, effortless jaunt that gave me just enough taste to makes me want her more.  She belongs to him, though.  I will have to get my own.

If his name was Jessie, she would be Jessie’s girl.  Can we pretend his name IS Jessie?  I want to sing the song.

I’m already dreaming about her.  In my dreams we are gliding across sun filled fields of daisies, forever joined together, birds singing around us, guiding us into the rocks, escorting us into the woods.  Heaven on earth, the sweat glistening in all the right places.

I woke up in a pool of drool, my pillow soaked.

She has big ones.  I like big ones.  She is a 29+, gorgeous 29″ x 3″ balloons with perfect knobs.  I am in lust.

Her name is Salsa.  Salsa Deadwood SUS.  I want her.  I want her badly.

For Your Listening Pleasure…

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…the dulcet tones of STEVE?

Yes.  Steve.

This past Wednesday, I recorded a voice over at a tiny professional recording studio.  I walked in with a script in hand, was greeted by an energetic young brunette engineer and escorted to a little room, with a closet sized room in the corner that was lined with acoustic foam, a music stand, and an adjustable height microphone with a round spit shield in front of it.  She handed me a glass of water, asked me if I am claustrophobic (I lied and said no), gave me some instructions about how the session would go, then closed the door.  I could see her and multiple monitor screens, essential for me to follow each segment of the recording as we recorded the script in bits.

There was a choice to wear the headphones or not.  I chose to wear them — I wanted to hear my voice.  We began with a long sound check as the engineer monkeyed with the levels, brought out a little more of the bass in my voice.  I have to say, it was pretty cool to hear myself!

Breath control was more difficult than I anticipated.  I managed to make it through most of the takes without snorting in the microphone or breathing heavily like a deranged pervert.  There were a few repeated bits as I worked on inflection, as well as slowing down and adding pauses, cleaning up a few places where I slurred or dropped a pronunciation.  Some of the challenge for me is simply forgetting what is left of my southern Illinois accent.

I made it through 90 minutes, a bit tired when the session was finished.  The engineer seemed impressed, told me that I sound like the guy who narrates some of the How It’s Made videos.  That made me feel good.  However, when I listened to the finished product later on that night, I still felt happy about the job that I did on the voice over, but realized that I am far from professional.  It was a good experience, though.

The voice over was for the first of a series of product training videos the company I work for is producing.  My employer is based in Hungary and I was chosen because, and I quote, “Steve sounds very, very American”.  That’s a compliment, right?

If my voice over actually is used, I will post it here.  Here is the link to the audio files, if you are interested in hearing this dork’s voice — SteveSuckedAndItIsRecorded

 

 

The Quest Continues

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This blog is going to have a little side story in it that will cause you to scratch your head in doubt.  It will, if you are anything like me.  I am scratching my head also, but am seriously thinking about doing it for the practical benefit(s).  Soooooo… hold that thought.

The quest for an affordable paradise continues.  Unless something causes the house sale to crash and burn, I have until March 31 to find a place to live.  Now, don’t let that thought cause your stomach to knot, because I am not losing sleep over that prospect.  God gave me a brain, enough experience in life, to figure things out and to realize that there is a solution to this one.  Even if it means that I have to impose on a friend to sleep on their couch or commute from my brother’s house on the north shore of Chicago, an hour commute on a perfect traffic day, it will be OK.

My brother lives in a neighborhood that once was the housing and stables for Fort Sheridan in the Highwood/Highland Park area.  If I lived with him for a while, I wouldn’t be slumming it, as well as being able to enjoy the short walk to Lake Michigan and all of the bike paths in the area.

The house buyers presented their requests for repairs and credits for my house earlier this week and my lawyer has responded.  We have not received a response to our proposed changes to their requests, but I don’t think that there will be huge issues (did I just jinx myself?).  This past week, I started looking for contractors to get prices to make the necessary adjustments to my house.  That part is painful to this penny pincher, the credits and repairs likely going to be in the $3000-4000 range.  Yeah.  Ouch.  Most of that money is a credit for window replacement, the rest for mold remediation (that is expensive) and an electrician to update the fuse box.  I am debating how I am going to handle replacing some of the framing and drywall in the garage, possibly having some friends who rehab for Habitat for Humanity assist me with that one.  I only have so much cash right now.

Which reminds me — my wife dropped a little bomb on me last week.  She bought a car, from her sister, for our daughter about a year ago.  The price was $2500 for a nice little Nissan Versa.  I agreed to buying the car if my wife would pay for it.  I pay all of our bills from my pay and my wife pays only her car payment, as well as a doctor bill now and then.  I just didn’t have the spare change to pay for a car.  Guess what?  You probably already have guessed.  She hasn’t paid a penny to her sister.  My wife’s net pay is around $2500 a month.  A small amount of discipline would have allowed her to pay her sister for that car by now.  Sooooooo, my wife announced to me that she wants me to pay her sister for the car from the money we get from the sale of our house.  It’s going to look funny to my sister if we buy a car for our son and we haven’t paid her for our daughter’s car, she said.

It looks funny to me, too was my response.  The verdict is out on this one.  The I-don’t-have-to-be-a-nice-guy-any-more side of me wants to tell her to have fun dealing with her sister on this one.  The common sense side of me says that maintaining a cooperative atmosphere might be more important that a little bit of money.

I continue to try to buy a condo at the condos and villas of Emerald Green.  Early on in my search, I focused on Emerald Green because it’s affordable, nice, quiet, scenic, and extremely well maintained by a very active association.  It’s also only a mile away from where I have lived for the last 23 years, a place I dearly love.  I have failed on two attempts to buy a condo there.  Friday, I made an offer on another condo, using another real estate agent who is a friend and is motivated to be a hero for me.  He’s also extremely aggressive, something the guy who I was working with is not (but that guy was a great listing agent).  This one is looking good.  There is another offer besides mine, a cash offer, but my offer is the highest bid, as well as my agent really working on the seller’s agent.  This condo has a direct view of the river, something I am interested in simply because of the therapeutic value, something the months to come will require.

Here’s the story that is going to seem cockeyed to some.  Yesterday, I took a look at another condo in Emerald Green, one that isn’t yet for sale but will be soon.  The owner is the woman I dated seriously before my wife.  I bumped into her (not literally) at a stoplight in town a year or two ago, exchanged phone numbers, talked to her a little bit.  I called her out of the blue when it became clear that I would be looking at a place in Emerald Green, found out that she wants to buy a house, so I asked her if she would show me her place when it was ready.  Her place is in great shape, move in ready.  She owns it.  We could make the transaction without real estate agents.  When I shot her a price, her eyes lit up.  It was higher than she expected, the price I want to pay.

Here’s the kicker — I told her that I would have no problems with her taking her time to move out.  I would move into the spare bedroom in the mean time.  Funny thing is that I trust her.  She trusts me.  Of all the girls I dated before my wife, she was the most laid back and down to earth.. and it’s obvious to me that she hasn’t changed.  So, the idea that she could stick around until she is ready to move was not a bad thought to her.  It helps us both, gives me somewhere to go at the end of the month, gives her motivation to get moving on finding her house.  She would get things like a lawn mower, leaf blower, garden tools, fertilizer spreader, etc.. from me.  By the way, she is looking for a house because her 22 year old son wants to move in with her.

That’s my back up plan should I not win the bid on the condo that I am currently trying to get.  I am real close to having this little piece of the puzzle solved.

The quest for paradise continues.